H T ADULT 149 Paintings You Really Need to See in North America (So You Can Ignore the Others).
By Julian Porter and Stephen Grant.
Sept. 2017. 440p. illus. Dundurn, $37.99
(9781459739369); e-book, $19.99 (9781459739376).
Though too large to throw in your backpack, this is a travel guide to “the best art in
public museums in North America.” Porter
and Grant, lawyers by trade, make difficult
art accessible through simple formal descriptions and introductory histories of artists
and patrons. Both write in an inviting, casual tone. Porter recalls his wife looking at
a Rembrandt and exclaiming, “Look at that
wonderful peppy young self-portrait!” A
Bridget Riley piece prompts Grant to ask,
“Is it even art?” Their book is rich with
color illustrations and brief, wall-text-style
explanations that make turning the pages
akin to strolling through a museum’s galleries. Canonical works by Titian, El Greco,
Kandinsky, and de Kooning are all on view.
Porter and Grant focus on older European
art and more modern North American and
European works because those, respectively,
are their areas of interest. It’s a shame they
don’t also look at paintings from other parts
of the world because their book promises
those curious but intimidated by art and
museums a comfortable introduction to
great works. —Maggie Taft
The Abu Dhabi Bar Mitzvah: Fear and
Love in the Modern Middle East.
By Adam Valen Levinson.
Nov. 2017. 320p. illus. Norton, $25.95 (9780393608366).
Levinson was an eighth-grader in Phila-
delphia in 2001 and knows now that 9/11
gave him “lenses to see the world.” Signifi-
cantly, it fueled in him a need to not fear the
Middle East, a swath of the map about which
the world seemed to say, “Don’t go here.” In
2010, he graduated from college, where he’d
nurtured his interest in the region through
language and political science courses, under-
went 10 weeks of intensive Arabic, and moved
to the UAE to work as a program coordinator
for NYU–Abu Dhabi. He quickly escapes the
restless comfort of his apartment and unde-
manding job and uses time off and personal
connections to explore the Middle East. Over
a year and a half that’s soon marked as the
beginning of the Arab Spring, he visits more
than 20 countries—facing Osama Bin Ladan’s
Abbottabad hideout, meeting revolutionaries
in Tahrir Square—“wanting to distinguish
between facts and fears” everywhere he goes.
Levinson skillfully relates aspects of his des-
tinations’ histories alongside his journalist’s
observations and personal thoughts and
emotions in this unique and illuminating
travelogue. —Annie Bostrom
The Best American Travel Writing, 2017.
Ed. by Lauren Collins and Jason Wilson.
Oct. 2017. 320p. HMH/Mariner, paper, $15.99
In his foreword to this collection, now in
its eighteenth year, series editor Wilson candidly notes that there was a noticeable lack
of traditional travel writing published in the
U.S. in 2016, as pages were dedicated, instead,
to covering a dizzying election. Reminding
Continued on p. 20